Liveblogging the Pulitzer panel (Comm Week)

Description from School of Communication site

Blog post announcing the event


Anders Gyllenhaal, executive editor of The Miami Herald and the panel’s moderator, began by giving an overview of the Pulitzer Prize. He noted that they will talk more about the craft than the actual stories.

Panelists (L-R):

(NOTE: Titles and links added after the event.)

7:26 p.m. and forward

Gyllenhaal: What do these prizes mean to the younger generation of journalists?

Sallah: “I think it’s the level of work that is required to win one of these prizes. It raises the importance of writing. It challenges you to do your very best as a writer or a reporter or an editorial cartoonist. Be the very best at your craft.”

“They help uphold the standards of our industry in way that other awards can’t do”

Oglesby: It gives journalists a reason to continue what they’re doing.

Blais: “A posh Bingo” is one way she’s heard it referred to

Morin: Gave a presentation of his cartoons and explained how his editor always mentioned the Pulitzers, but Morin never wanted to think much of it.

Ojito: Won for a series on race relations, which she said was geared for the award from the beginning–though no one explicitly said so.

“The most difficult thing was to find the people, find the characters.”


Blais didn’t understand the importance of collaboration a young reporter. She needed more eyes and ears to better understand and tell a story.

Ojito originally heard terrible things about journalism, but came to love it.

Oglesby told a story about him and Gene Miller traveling to Georgia for a story related to then-President Jimmy Carter. That experience showed him that he could do great things in the field.

“Each of you is unique. Each of you has something to offer. If you trust it and go with it, it will come out in time”

Sallah: “It’s important that people can trust you and know you are seeking the truth.”

His winning series at the Toledo Blade about Tiger Force in Vietnam taught him about the personal nature of reporting.

“Stories can turn on a dime and so much of it is luck. You need to convince them [sources] that you are there for the truth and you want to tell their story.”

There are certain parts of reporting that never die, he said. Shoeleather reporting is one of those.

Ojito: She doesn’t like going out to get general reactions to a story, but she does it.

7:53 p.m. and forward

Now, it’s on to audience questions…

Are there jobs in newspapers?

Gyllenhaal: It’s cyclical, but, “You have to work at it and develop the skills.”

Morin: Even though jobs may be sparse, as is the case with cartoonists today, send letters to editors and be persistent.

The panelists then answered more general audience questions ranging from having story ideas stolen as a freelancer to how not get too close to sources.

8:17 p.m.

Oglesby: “I think it’s very important to know yourself well and know your biases. … You need to be able to back off and get back into you objective mode.”

Ojito: “You’re not a reporter when you’re at work, you’re a reporter all the time–it’s how you live your life.”

If you look at everything, you’ll have more story ideas than you know what to do with, she said.

7:25 p.m. and forward

Blais: Advice from Edna Buchanan regarding when to stop persisting: She would call and say who she was, they would hang up, she would wait 60 seconds and call back. But what about a third time? “That would be harassment.”

Sallah: It’s even more difficult when people are grieving after losing a loved one.

“They sometimes want to open up. It’s a little bit of therapy for them. … You can really write a nice story and give his parents and friends some honor.”

You really are a psychologist in your job.

8:28 p.m.

How do you tell a source he/she can’t see your story?

Ojito: You should turn the question around, asking what they are concerned about. It’s ok to read back their quotes.

8:30 p.m.

Sallah: It’s OK to read back quotes, but you should only negotiate to a certain extent (i.e. if you’re certain about something). You can’t allow someone to backtrack from the heart of the story just because they don’t want it to be published.

“Be very careful in getting it right.”

8:36 p.m.

My question about not submitting awards or writing for awards because you should write for readers, not for other journalists–as Howard Owens and others have blogged about:

Oglesby: “This isn’t about winning awards. It’s about doing a good job and helping readers. If that is your goal, you can get satisfaction from the achievement every time. The award is not really important at all.”

Last thought:

Sallah: “Just don’t lose your heart for this. Don’t compromise.”

Howard Owens on the roles of modern journalism

Howard Owens always offers good insight. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the Journalism Listmaster (2008 objectives for today’s non-wired journalist).

Here is his latest list, on the Six roles, or job duties, of modern journalism:

  • The Ethical Role
  • The Guide/Filter Role
  • The Understanding and Context Role
  • The Conversation Leader Role
  • The Aggregator Role
  • The Straight News Role

I particularly like the following, which hits on the potential value of having a greater number of reporters and editors blogging:

“I know many really, really smart reporters and editors. These people should have blogs, and they should serve readers better by taking the news of the day and putting it in context, combing articles for the tidbits that need to be weaved together to make a bigger whole, and explaining what it all means.”